Is augmented reality (AR) the next big thing for ecommerce user experience (UX)? Rob Williams, Chief Executive of leading ecommerce and marketing company, Williams Commerce, thinks that it is.
He says: “While there might be fewer Pokemon Go players around these days, there are still 65million of them playing every month. A technology that can generate a potential marketplace on this scale in just over a year has to be taken seriously. It has certainly caught the attention of major forces in ecommerce.”
What is AR?
AR technology allows digital information to be overlaid on images of your surroundings in real time. It’s not like virtual reality (VR), which creates a completely artificial environment.
The term has been around for a long time and was originally used to describe how Boeing’s electricians used head-mounted displays to assemble complicated wiring. There are now ‘heads-up’ displays in cars and specialised applications including healthcare, public safety, and tourism.
Rob Williams says: “AR applications for smartphones include pinpointing your location, giving you a compass to work out where you’re going, and object and gesture recognition. With over half of internet traffic now being on mobile devices this will be a major growth area for AR”.
Who’s interested in AR and why
The home shopping television network QVC is experimenting with augmented reality. Its AR app, called YouCam Makeup, is said to use facial recognition, 3D rendering, and skin tone analysis to allow customers to ‘test’ cosmetics before they buy.
With the IKEA Place app you can choose furniture and other objects in a variety of colours and finishes. You can place them in your own room to see how they look and whether they will fit before you buy. However, reviews say there are still some issues with product sizing to be resolved for this app.
The gift-focused marketplace, Apollo Box, has been testing an AR feature called ‘Teleport’ for almost a year. The company now offers a 3D rendering service to its vendors. While only around 1,100 items have been sold using their AR feature, they say it has boosted conversion rates by 25%.
This month Snapchat launched a feature to allow users to add their Bitmoji avatars into any environment through the app camera. If they want to, users will soon be able to film a cartoon version of themselves dancing on the kitchen table.
What’s next with AR?
In April this year Facebook announced its Camera Effects developer platform. In June Apple launched ARKit for iPhone and iPad developers. While Google has been experimenting with AR since 2014, a developer preview of its own ARCore for Android smartphones was only released last month.
Facebook is predicting applications including restaurant ratings and menus appearing when you point your phone at them, signposts to chosen locations and new visual elements for sports and games.
Google expects many more phones to have a depth-sensing facility in the near future that will work seamlessly with ARCore. In the meantime, they are focussing on horizontal planes, motion tracking and lighting levels to allow digital objects to look natural in their real-world environment.
What will make the difference?
Rob Williams concludes: “The success of Pokemon Go shows how popular a technology that links users to their environment can be. With major players like Google, Apple and Facebook involved, AR technology will quickly become mainstream. Once established, forward-looking businesses will be able to capitalise on its potential.”
“AR is leading the way to greater convergence between gaming and social media. It isn’t a great leap to imagine that it could also merge in-store and online buying experiences too.”
For further information please contact:
Keri Williams at Williams Commerce at [email protected] or on
0116 326 1116.
Find out more about Williams Commerce at www.williamscommerce.com